I used to call myself a pacifist. I had this crazy idea that Jesus was serious when he went on with the whole "turn the other cheek" thing. In fact, it amazes me to this day to hear people who generally believe in the literal truth of the Bible talk themselves out of that one.
"Uh, um, well he couldn't have meant to literally turn the other cheek, because who's gonna let themselves get beat up? That's weak! It's totally unreasonable!"
Some time down the line I stopped calling myself a pacifist to impress a girl who figured it wasn't super manly to be "passive." I abandoned my conviction and bought into the propaganda that refusing to fight is patently unmasculine. And I'm not proud of it.
The farther I walk down this road to heaven, the more convinced I am that Jesus meant exactly what he said. Refusal to respond to violence with violence is a radical witness to a world desensitized by aggression. It is a choice of great spiritual power, God's power which is counterintuitive and countercultural, a power of love, not of force or compulsion.
Is this not the tune of the angels' song when they proclaimed the coming of the Kingdom to the shepherds that night?
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men. (Luke 2:14, KJV)
The coming of the Messiah, of God Himself means peace on earth and good will towards all people. If we are to experience the shalom of God, the peace and wholeness of the Kingdom, we must surrender the lie of redemptive violence. Taking life when life has been taken is not justice, it is vengeance. Striking out against those who have hurt us may be satisfying, but it is poison. It will not bring peace. Violence will not usher in peace. Peace must be the means to its own end.
So this Christmas I'm going to try to say no to violence. Sensational, unnecessary violence in entertainment. Petty violence against others in my words and actions, and violence on a global scale. I have to believe the peace of God is potent enough to undo the broken, angry aggression of this world, and I want to be part of that story.